John Kerry Reflects on 2004 Election Attacks and How They Compare to Today

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Posted: Sep 12, 2018 9:50 AM
John Kerry Reflects on 2004 Election Attacks and How They Compare to Today

Marie Harf, one half of the Fox News Radio show Benson & Harf - the other half starring Townhall's own Guy Benson - had the chance to interview her old boss on the program Tuesday night. Harf was a deputy spokesperson at the State Department and eventually the communications advisor for former Secretary of State John Kerry. He visited the studio Tuesday to share his thoughts on Trump's foreign policy, and to reflect on his own run for the presidency.

Given that Tuesday marked the 17th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, Harf first wanted Kerry to tell listeners what he believes America's goals are in Afghanistan.

"The mission does need clarity," he said. "The mission clearly – I think there are better ways in Afghanistan to try to now to transition to the protection envelope we need with respect to terrorism, and I think the mission became far more of kind of, 'How do we stabilize the government? How do we hang on to – you know, give them the shot at governance and sovereignty in a new governing, you know, structure?'”

"So bottom line, Afghanistan needs full reevaluation now.  We need to think had about a process by which we’re transitioning to a very different process.  I’m not talking about pulling the rug out from under people, but I am talking about transitioning to a posture which is more realistic and demanding more of the Afghans themselves than of the current government."

Shifting to North Korea, Kerry said Trump's relationship with Kim Jong Un left much to be desired. While he supported the president's in person meetings with Chairman Kim, he thinks their summit happened prematurely.

"But I do think, and I’ve criticized the president on this - which is not having prepared the Summit adequately, or properly, or at all.  I mean, it’s one thing to say we want to have a dialogue, and we want to try to do the diplomacy.  But you’ve got to prepare the diplomacy.

"You’ve got to have a strategy, you’ve got to have more than just the glitzy meeting with the flags and so forth, and nice statements.  And clearly now, there is no clarity as to what has - what is denuclearization?  What is the definition of it?"

Kerry ran for the presidency himself in 2004 against President George W. Bush. What most remember about his unsuccessful candidacy was the infamous attacks from a group called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who questioned the combat medals he received for his service in the Vietnam War. Harf asked Kerry to put some perspective on the criticism.

"When I was there, when I was in the midst of the campaign obviously, and was being attacked - we thought we had adequately answered it by putting out my records, by having the eyewitnesses who are actually on the particular boat (ph), or in the particular action talk about what happened.  And the news media, the mainstream media covered that, covered it in-depth.

"But regrettably it was the beginning of a period where television ads were constructed in highly manipulative, extremely distorted manner that really attacked the truth and they kept using them.  Even when people would go on T.V. and clarify and put out the real evidence. And the eyewitnesses would say, 'no that’s not what happened, we were there.'”

Harf wondered if that kind of "nasty" politics has only worsened.

"We always had a media where people could find an agreement, a sort of consensus about that truth," Kerry noted. "Now, you have, quote, 'alternative facts,' or you have fake news and so forth, and - and the difficulty is America is losing its ability to have a baseline of facts.  And as Patrick Moynihan, the Senator from New York, famously said again and again, everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

He again defended his military service in a later question.

"I believe in service," he said. "I volunteered for the military.  I volunteered to go to Vietnam.  I’m proud of that.  I’m proud of the service even though I thought the leaders had made bad decisions and - and the war was not what we all had been told it was. But that said, I still believe in the honor of service."

Kerry shares all this and more in his new memoir, Every Day is Extra.